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Health, Science & Tech

More Ambulatory Surgery Centers in PA Means More Options for Patients

The number of ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) in Pennsylvania increased by 10 in 2012, bringing the total to 281. That’s according to an annual report from the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council, or the PHC4.

An ASC is a facility that offers outpatient procedures that don’t require an overnight stay, such as a colonoscopy or endoscopy.

“It’s important for these kinds of assessments to occur because these institutions are vitally important to communities because of the people they treat as well as all of the people they employ, so it’s important to know how they’re doing financially,” said PHC4 Executive Director Joe Martin.

And financially, the report finds they are doing well.

“The average operating margin, that reflects the profit between payment and expenses, increased from just under 25 percent last year to almost 26 percent this year (2012),” Martin said, “and the total margin, that reflects all their expenses and revenue, went from 25.1 to 27 (percent).”

In 2012, there were a reported 1.1 million outpatient visits to ASCs resulting in $1.1 billion in net outpatient revenue. The number of procedures at ASCs increased 0.7 percent in 2012, and commercial health insurance plans covered 51.4 percent of the outpatient procedures at ASCs.

The number of ASCs has been steadily increasing over the years, though Martin said the increases may be leveling off. Still, the availability of such facilities has been helpful for patients who may not have access to a large traditional hospital facility.

“As medical technology has improved or advanced, many of these procedures that used to be done in a hospital no longer need to be done there,” he said. “They are relatively low-risk and you’re in and out in a couple of hours; they do not require an overnight stay.”

This is the second of three reports on the health of medical facilities in Pennsylvania in 2012. The first focused on general acute care hospitals, and the third will focus on non-general acute care hospitals such as rehabilitation, psychiatric and long-term care facilities. That will be released later this year.